What does the DEIS say about avian populations?
Short Version: Wind energy’s avian fatality estimate is roughly half that of nuclear energy and almost 20 times smaller than traditional fossil fuels. The Project’s corridors do not contain habitats that would concentrate migrating birds. The DEIS reports the area lacks suitable nesting habitats for bald eagles. The compensatory mitigation program will help the eagle population throughout the United States. The measures planned for avian populations will not only help mitigate issues and incidental impacts on eagles but may help to grow the overall population of eagles throughout the United States.
The DEIS provides a detailed evaluation of the effects of the Project on avian populations. Development projects have the potential to affect birds through removal of habitat and collision with turbine blades.
The DEIS reports that the Project’s corridors do not contain habitats that would concentrate migrating birds or mountain ridges that would provide updrafts for migrating raptors. Most of the fatalities that would occur from turbine collisions would likely be small species that have an unlikely chance of experiencing population effects from these fatalities.
The DEIS reports that the Project’s corridors and vicinity generally lack suitable nesting habitat and provide limited foraging habitat for bald eagles. Corridors do not contain preferred nesting habitat for golden eagles due to the lack of cliffs and rugged topography; however, some foraging habitat is present in the area. Effects from noise, increased human presence, and direct mortality would occur over the 34-year life of the project. These effects would not be irreversible because they would be offset through compensatory mitigation required by MVE’s eagle incidental take permit. The impact on eagles associated with the project would not result in a trend toward listing under the endangered species act or a loss of population viability.
The project has been sited outside of major flyways for migratory birds; features that concentrate raptor migration (such as prominent ridgelines) are not present. In coordination with the BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), MVE has adjusted the siting corridors to avoid or minimize the placement of infrastructure in areas known to be occupied by avian species of concern. Turbines have been sited to reduce the risk of avian collisions. Proper facility and turbine siting can lead to lower avian fatality rates.
Putting The DEIS Analysis In Context
To put context around potential bird fatalities due to collisions with wind turbines, the estimated bird fatality rate per megawatt per year (“birds/MW/yr”) provides a helpful “apples to apples” comparison between different facilities.
As shown in the figure below, the average fatality rate estimated by BLM in the EIS for Lava Ridge, 2.7 birds/MW/yr, is similar to or below the fatality rate estimates used by Federal agencies in other recent EIS documents for wind projects in the Western United States. This means that a wind turbine installed at the Lava Ridge Project does not present a higher estimated risk to birds than a wind turbine installed at the other wind facilities shown in the figure.
It is also important to put into context avian fatality rates with other forms of energy production. Wind energy’s avian fatality estimate is roughly half that of nuclear energy and almost 20 times smaller than traditional fossil fuels.
What Steps Will MVE Take To Protect Birds?
To provide further protection for birds, MVE has taken into consideration the location of all Project components, as well as the design of the components, to help minimize and mitigate potential impact to birds. Additionally, MVE has committed to conducting specific tasks, which may disturb migratory birds, during seasons when this would not be the case, minimizing impact to the birds.
MVE developed a Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy, providing guidelines for implementing measures which help mitigate and minimize impacts to the birds in the area.
Coordination with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a compensatory mitigation program will help the eagle population throughout the United States.
Avian Issues Analyzed in Brief
The DEIS acknowledges that because of the meaningful mitigation measures MVE has committed to, some concerns were alleviated since impacts would be below significance or not present. The table below shows the issues analyzed in brief and the result of analysis: